Youth unemployment: Ministers under pressure
By Sophie Petitjean | Friday 10 February 2012
The 27 member states agree that early, targeted and intelligent intervention, involving the world of work and the world of education, is needed to reduce youth unemployment in Europe. At the Education Council, on 10 February, the ministers were asked to identify policy measures to be taken in 2012 at national and European level to combat today’s high levels of youth unemployment and to lessen the social impact of the crisis for young people. “Unemployment is a waste of human talent. When 14% of our pupils leave school early, something is not working correctly,” said the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou. She urged member states to redouble the efforts being made under their national reform programmes.
At the request of the Danish EU Council Presidency, four member states initiated the debate. Cyprus presented its programme to reduce early school leaving, based on prevention and early intervention. Germany described its work-linked training system, which is supported financially by companies. Slovakia presented its communication strategy aimed at raising awareness of employment prospects and curricula among young people and their families, while Ireland presented its 35-week programme, divided into 12 weeks of training in new computer skills, 11 weeks of work in a company and another 12 weeks of training. The other member states (plus Croatia) then outlined their respective national situations.
The states also suggested a number of possible measures for the European level. France called for the establishment of a European plan for work-linked training, based on mobility and quality (apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities, possibly through the introduction of a framework). Paris also supports simplification of procedures under the European Social Fund to enable it to make a greater contribution to combating early school leaving.
As the meeting drew to a close, Commissioner Vassiliou declared: “We need to work on two areas: on the one hand, meeting challenges in the short and medium term by offering traineeships to young people currently unemployed, and on the other, tackling long-term challenges through a constant evaluation of our education systems. It is better and less costly to intervene at an early stage and to get to the root of the problem”.
TWO ALARMING REPORTS
Earlier in the morning, the ministers adopted the 2012 joint report of the Council and Commission on implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training. They were also briefed on the main conclusions of the report drawn up jointly by the Eurydice network and Eurostat, entitled ‘Key data on education in Europe 2012’. The conclusions of both reports are generally not encouraging.
The first notes that member states are advancing very slowly on achieving the ‘Europe 2020’ targets on education and early school leaving (see
The second, which presents developments in European education systems over the last decade, draws attention to the risk of teacher shortages in the future. It shows that the number of graduates in education is falling and that the profession has grown more precarious over the years: teachers spend more time in the classroom and have lower purchasing power than ten years ago. A number of member states, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium could face serious teacher shortages in the future, warns the report. The 95 indicators listed in the study cover the demographic situation, education structures, participation, resources, teachers and administrative staff, education processes and levels of qualification, as well as the transition to employment.